The best air fryers 2019

Air fryers – sometimes called health fryers – use hot air instead of oil, so they're healthier to cook with than deep-fat fryers. We ate our way through endless chips to bring you our top buys.

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Lakeland touchscreen air fryer 2.6L

Lakeland touchscreen air fryer on white backgroundBest for a small household

Pros: Very easy to use, dishwasher-proof, small and neat
Cons: No pre-set programmes, quiet “finishing” beep

This sleek, stylish little black number won’t take up much counter space and is perfect for one or two people. It’s very easy to use straight out of the box so you don’t need to spend ages studying the instruction booklet. The instructions are clear if you need them, if a little basic. 

We were disappointed not to find a recipe book, but there’s one on the Lakeland website that you can download. The cord of the fryer stores in the base, making it really neat.

You choose the temperature and cooking time yourself as there aren’t any pre-set functions. The machine is very simple to use – just press plus or minus to adjust the temperature and cooking time. 

Five icons on the top handily remind you of the recommended temperature and cooking time for common food including chips and fish. However, the “chops” icon in particular is hard to decipher (we initially thought it was bacon) and the cooking times are quite vague (10-25 minutes). To be fair, cooking time really does depend on the size and amount of the food.

The suggested capacity is 500g of chips in 20-25 minutes. You need to add a couple of minutes to the cooking time if the machine is cold.

This isn’t one you can walk away and leave. The chips really did need a good shake as the ones on top were beautifully brown after about 15 minutes, while others were decidedly anaemic. By the time 25 minutes was up, our chips were brown and the batch was evenly cooked. 

The machine’s “I’ve finished” beep is a bit weedy – you wouldn’t hear it in a different room. However, the fryer scored extra points because the removable parts were dishwasher-proof.


Buy from Lakeland (£79.99)

Specifications:
Capacity: 2.6l (cooks up to 500g chips)
Dimensions: 27 x 34.5 x 32.5cm
Weight: 4.35k
Recipe book? PDF online only 
Pre-set functions: No
Adjustable temperature and timer: Yes
Digital or manual: Digital
Additional extras: None
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Self-stirring/ turning? No

Chips:
Time taken for 500g fresh chips: 20-25 mins
Oil for 500g fresh chips: 1-2 tsp.


Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 

Tefal Actifry Genius XLBest all-rounder

Pros: Can cook pretty much anything, self-stirring, large viewing window
Cons: Large footprint won’t suit everyone

This sizeable air fryer will take up quite a lot of space on your work surface and it isn’t the quietest. 

It all seemed a bit complicated at first, and the dull, flimsy instruction book is a bit off-putting, although to be fair the instructions are detailed and clear. However, this fryer has an awful lot going for it.

The machine is a squatter shape than most of the fryers we tested, with a control panel behind it. There’s just one removable pan rather than a pan and basket.

Its USP is that it stirs itself with a rotating paddle which means you can leave it to do its own thing. There’s a transparent viewing window so you can easily see what’s going on should you feel the urge to wander over and have a look.
 
It has nine pre-set functions including chicken and desserts, as well as wok and world food settings. There are temperature and timing settings too.

One of the pre-set buttons is for chips. This came up at a default 29 minutes when we cooked ours, which we stuck with. (If you set it yourself, the instructions say 25-27 minutes for up to 750g). The chips were faultless – crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and evenly cooked. 

The machine plays a little tune when it’s finished, but it’s a very thin and reedy sound so you’ll need to listen out for it.

To test the versatility of the machine, we also made dinner using the “World Food” function. The recipe book that comes with the machine only has nine recipes, but also advertises an app that has plenty more. 

We tried the app’s coconut chicken curry which was pretty easy and took 35 minutes.  All you have to do is fling the ingredients in, press the relevant setting and adjust the time. The pan heats and, after some minutes, the paddle rotates. 

The machine automatically switches to “keep warm” afterwards if needed. It made a quick, easy and tasty dinner which the kids polished off happily. From an adult point of view, it was great not to have to keep checking and stirring the food.

This one is for you if you don’t want to have to do anything except put raw food in at the beginning and take your dinner out at the end. For added simplicity, the removable parts – including the lid – can all go in the dishwasher.

 

Specifications:
Capacity: 1.7k 
Dimensions:  47.6 x 32.8 x 26.3 cm
Weight: 5.07k
Recipe book? Yes, plus more on the app
Pre-set functions: 9
Adjustable temperature and timer: Yes
Additional extras: Measuring spoon
Digital or manual: Digital
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Self-stirring/ turning? Yes

Chips:
Suggested time taken for 500g of fresh chips: 
Oil for 500g of chips: Half of the enclosed spoon (equal to10ml approx)


Dihl 3.2L LED air fryer 

Dihl air fryer in red on a white backgroundBest budget buy

Pros: Great for convenience foods, straightforward to use, looks good on the worktop
Cons: No pre-set functions

This bright red machine is surprisingly snazzy-looking for a budget model (it’s also available in black for traditionalists). This could be a deciding factor if you’re planning on leaving your fryer on the counter. You can also remove the cord, so it takes up less space.

Despite being one of the cheapest models we tested, it’s a digital rather than a manual machine. You can easily adjust the temperature and cooking time by pressing two buttons. It needs to be pre-heated for three minutes if the machine is cold.

There are no pre-set functions, but icons tell you how long to cook six popular foods. Unlike some, there’s no guesswork involved – they are written out and there’s a picture too. Maybe that’s because no-one would ever guess one of the options, which, bafflingly, is “purple potatoes”.

The chips icon says 12-15 minutes which seems very quick. The instructions suggest frozen fries need 12-20 minutes, and homemade need 18-25. This means a certain amount of checking is involved.

The instructions also say firmly that you get best results with frozen chips, so we tried those first. You don’t need to add any oil to these, but you still have to shake them. They’re cooked after 12 minutes but another four minutes gets them really crispy. 

Intriguingly, the suggested temperature for homemade chips is 180 degrees rather than the 200 on most machines, and the instruction booklet warns that food should be golden yellow rather than dark brown to minimise the production of acrylamide. 

Our homemade chips are indeed golden brown after the suggested time, but a rebellious couple of extra minutes at 190 degrees does brown them up.

We also try frozen chicken nuggets which have a lovely colour after 10 minutes.

As it cooks, the machine alternates between flashing up the temperature and the remaining time in minutes, before beeping. Unlike some of the other machines, it doesn’t stop instantly, but switches off after about 15 seconds. 

This fryer would be great for people who like to use convenience foods, as it will save heating up a whole oven.


Buy from Dihl (£50.99)Amazon (£53.99) and Wayfair (£50.99)

Specifications:
Capacity: 3.2l (800g chips)
Dimensions:  32cm x 26cm x 31cm 
Weight: 6.4k
Recipe book?  No
Pre-set functions: No
Digital or manual: Digital
Adjustable temperature and timer: Both
Additional extras: None
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Self-stirring/turning? No

Chips:
Suggested time taken for 500g fresh chips: 18-25 minutes.
Oil for 500g chips: Half a tablespoon


Power Air Fryer XL - 3.2L digital air fryer

Power Air Fryer on white background

Best value

Pros: Easy to use, great results, seven pre-set functions, family-sized
Cons: Needs shaking

If you’re looking for a middle-of-the-range, solid, straightforward air fryer, you won’t go far wrong with this one.
It’s good looking and easy-to-use with a pleasingly chunky handle. It goes about its business quietly and effectively.

There’s a range of seven pre-set functions; French fries, roast, prawns, bake, chicken, steak and fish; and you can also adjust the temperature and cooking time.

The comprehensive instruction book gives clear instructions and suggested cooking times, as well as FAQs, and there’s a quick start guide for good measure. But you won’t need to do much more than glance at them as the machine is intuitive to use. 

It comes with the best recipe book of all the models we tested – all 77 pages of it, with glossy colour pictures. The range of suggested food included chicken goujons, sticky toffee sponge pudding and vegetable pakoras. 

There’s also a basket divider so you can cook two different dishes at once, and a small baking pan. 

Best of all, this air fryer makes wonderful chips – and quickly. The default time on the pre-set is 18 minutes and if you like your fries lightly golden, they’d be ready about 5 minutes before that. 

We gave it the full 18 and the fries were richly dark but remained soft and fluffy. They did need to be given a good shake while cooking though. 

The machine signals that it has finished with five long, fairly piercing beeps that will summon you from the room next door. We also tried out a recipe for bean burgers from the accompanying booklet. You can’t do everything in the machine – you have to fry onions, peppers etc first of all in a pan on the hob, together with a teaspoon of oil. 

Once we’d made the burgers, they were cooked on “roast” (175 degrees) for 10 minutes each side and emerged golden and well cooked, without the addition of any extra oil.

 

Specifications:
Capacity: 3.2l (cooks up to 760g chips)
Dimensions: 32.2cm x 32.2cm x 36.6cm 
Weight: 5.5k
Recipe book? Yes 
Pre-set functions: 7
Adjustable temperature and timer: Yes
Digital or manual: Digital
Additional extras: Baking tray, basket divider
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Self-stirring/ turning? No

Chips:
Time taken for 500g fresh chips: 18 mins on default setting (instructions state 10-16 mins)
Oil for 500g of fresh chips 0.5tbsp


Breville VDF120 Halo Plus health fryer, 1.25L

Breviile air fryer
Best for lazy cooks 

Pros: The rotating, tilting pan means you don’t have to shake/stir your food, transparent lid
Cons: Bulky, no temperature adjust

This futuristic-looking machine (it reminds us of a Dyson-style carpet cleaner) is much easier to use than it first appears. It’s deceptively clever too as the pan rotates, ensuring food cooks evenly.

The Breville has two positions. There’s a conventional flat one for delicate food like salmon. If you’re making chips, however, you adjust the “tilt” lock (a handle on the side) so the pan slopes forward. This sends the chips tumbling as the pan rotates.

Once you’ve put the chips in, you add your oil using the measuring spoon that comes with it. You select how long you want to cook your food for by pressing the plus or minus button at the front – there’s no adjustable temperature. 

There’s a choice of two functions – grill or dual heat – the latter means heat comes from both above and below. The machine starts once you’ve pressed one of those two buttons. 

After you’ve switched it on, you can watch in fascination as the bowl rotates and cooks your food. Although it’s great to watch – a bit like washing in a tumble dryer – you can actually go off and do something more interesting because you don’t need to shake or turn the chips.

One downside is that there is nothing to show you whether you have pressed the “grill” or “dual heat” button. This could make you anxious if you’re not sure you pressed the right one. 

We tried this with both conventional and sweet potato fries for the half an hour recommended in the instructions and both needed just a few minutes longer to be golden brown. 

The fryer counts down in minutes, and then in seconds for the last minute. When the time is up, the fryer beeps several times, loudly enough to alert you from a different room if you’ve wandered off.

You remove the pan from the machine with a detachable handle, which can be tricky at first.

This one is great for bigger families as it can cook 1.25kg of chips in one go. The instructions are clear and comprehensive, with cooking times for five different portion sizes of chips, for example. There are also more than 20 recipes to get you started, but no pictures.


Buy from Amazon (£153.99)

Specifications:
Capacity: 1.25 litres (1.25kg chips)
Dimensions: 43 x 32 x 31 cm
Weight: 4.5k
Recipe book? Part of instruction book
Pre-set functions: No
Digital or manual: Digital
Adjustable temperature and timer: Timer only
Additional extras: Roasting rack, measuring spoon for oil
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Self-stirring/turning? Yes

Chips:
Suggested time for 500g fresh chips: 25-30 minutes
Oil for 500g of chips: Quarter to half a tablespoon


Buyer’s advice

Why buy an air fryer?

Love chips but hate the number of calories in a portion? Air fryers – sometimes called health fryers – sit on your kitchen worktop, plug into the mains and cook using hot air. 

This means that you can cook most food without any oil (though chips need a splash to ensure they crisp up). They are a healthier option than deep-fat fryers, or even homemade chips cooked in oil in the oven. They have a removable pan and usually a separate basket too, which you put your food in.

Bowls of chips after testing
But if you just think of an air fryer as a healthy alternative to a deep-fat fryer, you won’t be getting the most out of it. An air fryer is effectively a mini oven and you can cook all sorts of different dishes in it. Some come with recipes for full meals including burgers and curry. They’re smaller than an oven, they’re portable and usually quicker, saving fuel costs. 

We cooked homemade chips in all the machines we tested. They trumped oven chips, as they were fresher and had much more flavour. They were easier than handmade chips because you don’t need to open the oven, turn them with a spatula and then scrape burnt bits off the dish when washing it up. You just pull out the basket, give your chips a shake (or a toss, if you’re feeling adventurous), slot it back in and it will carry on.


Which air fryer to buy

We didn’t find a single dud fryer among the eleven we tested – they all produced well cooked, fluffy chips. So, which one to buy comes down to other factors:

Manual or digital
The simplest air fryers come with manual knobs that you twist to set the timer and temperature. You may prefer a digital version where you press buttons to set this, and where the remaining time is displayed. The Breville Halo Plus Health Fryer, one of our top five, doesn’t have a temperature button at all.

Choice of pre-set programmes
Do you like to choose your own temperature and how long to cook things for, or would you prefer to leave all that to the machine? Some of our fryers had up to nine pre-set programmes for popular foods like chips and, bizarrely, shrimps.

Speed
It took between 17 and 30 minutes to cook chips in our samples, so this might be a factor. Some models need preheating, but only for a few minutes (much less than an oven).

Selection of air fryers laid out for testing

Size
Always check the size too as the capacity varies enormously – important if you’re feeding the masses or just want dinner for one. But bigger isn’t always better. Some take up more space on the kitchen surface and if you’re going to keep it in a cupboard, check the dimensions – some of these are sizeable beasts. 

Transparent lid 
Some models have a see-through lid so you can glance in and check your chips are browning well. With others, you have to open the basket to check, stopping the machine. The transparent ones tend to be a feature on more expensive machines, so you need to decide how important this is to you.

Shaking
With most air fryers, you need to shake your chips halfway through cooking (or more often if you want to see how they are getting on). Some fryers have clever devices built in to turn the food for you. Again, these tend to be the more expensive models but this could a factor to consider if you want to go off and leave your dinner to cook itself.

Cleaning
You’ll need to wash the basket and pan after use. Some needed to be hand-washed, while others are dishwasher-proof. (The main parts of the machine should just be wiped with a cloth).

Price
Air fryers vary hugely in price – our tested models varied from £39.99 to £300.


What we looked for in an air fryer

Ease of use
No-one wants to have to resort to a YouTube video to work out how to use a new gadget. We looked for fryers with clear, simple instructions so we could get them out of the box and cooking our dinner as quickly as possible. Fryers also scored highly if the icons or control buttons were easy to use and intuitive.

Dihl air fryer cooking chicken nuggets

Value for money
Some of our cheaper fryers made excellent fries without a big price tag. We looked at whether the fryers were worth the price.

Quality of food
To ensure fairness, we initially cooked chips in every fryer we tested. We looked at how evenly they “fried” and whether they were brown and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  

More advice on buying electronic kit

The best food processors
The best blenders
The best toasters 
The best kettles
The best soup makers
The best slow cookers

This review was last updated in March 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

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